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Palmeiras’ mission: not concede a goal, and score at least one.

With neither Mayke nor Jean perfectly fit, Cuca opted for Tchê Tchê on the right flank. Same with Guerra; the Venezuelan started on the bench, Dudu pulled back to exercise the playmaking role, feeding Keno, Roger Guedes and Deyverson. The rest of the starting eleven was as expected, with Jailson between the posts, Egídio to the left, Mina and Luan centre lock behind watchdogs Thiago Santos and Bruno Henrique.

We were treated to a great game. Much pace, very physical, 100% dedication from both sides. Barcelona de Guayaquil are a tricky opponent, tactically obedient, who know where their strengths lie.

During the 90 minutes, two out of three Palmeiras substitutions were forced: Mina fractured a toe toward the end of the first half, Edu Dracena stepping in (Mina will be out for 2-3 months). In halftime, Moisés came on for Guedes, allowing Dudu to reassume a more advanced position to the right. Same Dudu, who later, completely exhausted, gave way to Guerra. Perhaps that was the defining feature: Palmeiras playing the first half without much creativity on the midfield. However, neither Guerra nor Moisés were in shape to stand the trail and Cuca new it.

It was nevertheless a joy to see Moisés back on the pitch: the game immediately gravitated towards him as he commanded the midfield, controlling the pace and distributing passes. The goal was his, a little gem, Dudu responsible for the assist.

Palmeiras were centimetres away from 2-0, Keno absolutely incredulous after hitting the crossbar.

Penalty shootout. Guerra and Tchê converted, Bruno Henrique did not. Keno and Moisés then converted and Jailson saved Barcelona’s fifth to leave it 4-4. Egídio blew Palmeiras’ first alternate and curtains down.
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Earlier this week, the Verdazzo published an excellent article, highlighting that everything is evolution, everything is process, that an elimination would be terrible but not the end of the world. The work must continue, errors must be corrected and Palmeiras improve what is already there to, in 2018, emerge stronger than ever. True, everyone expected trophies this year; after all, Palmeiras are the current Brazilian champions, enjoy the largest sponsorship deal, the largest supporter membership programme, draw the biggest crowds to Brazil’s best stadium, make the most money and sign the best players. Only to prove, once more, that football is not an exact science.

The challenge today and for the next few weeks is to exercise rationale, finding a state of normality within this universe of disappointment. Evaluate the positive and the negative, make adjustments, train hard, play hard. And go skunk hunting.

Yesterday, our supporters once again put on an amazing show: the 360-degree mosaic, the enormous banner, the instruments… Beautiful. Winning or losing, it was beautiful. Nothing can take that away. (thank you Leonardo Fioretti for the video)
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Inhale. Exhale. Today is a new day.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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An early exit from the Brazil Cup combined with an overall decent performance in the Brasileirão – albeit nowhere near Corinthians’ splendid run – have funnelled down Palmeiras’ year to Wednesday night’s clash with Barcelona de Guayaquil.

Palmeiras created a bit of momentum after the Brazil Cup elimination to Cruzeiro, beating Avaí 2-0 and Botafogo 1-2 in the Brasileirão. Yesterday, welcoming Atlético Parananense at the Allianz Parque, Cuca fielded a completely alternative line-up, correctly opting for resting all his strongest players. The game turned out a lame affair, Palmeiras’ long streak of undefeated home games interrupted. Only positive aspect was the return of Moisés after close to six months of rehab due to a severe knee injury. Yesterday, the midfielder showed surprising vigour, making him a force to reckon with possibly even on Wednesday, if necessary.

Halfway through the Brazilian Championship, the table stands as below. Snatching the title from Corinthians will be extremely hard: they are surprisingly consistent this year – in part a consequence of not having any other competitions to worry about. Grêmio might still put up a fight, but for the rest it is all about finishing in the top six (and preferably top four) in order to secure a spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup.
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Cuca and the squad are secluded in Atibaia, seeking that little extra level of concentration ahead of Wednesday’s task of reverting the 1-0 score from the first leg, advancing to the quarterfinals. Any victory by a margin of two goals does the trick. Another 1-0 and there will be a penalty shootout. Naturally, not conceding a goal to Barcelona is imperative.

Expected line-up on Wednesday: Jaílson; Egídio, Luan, Mina and Mayke*; Bruno Henrique, Thiago Santos and Guerra; Dudu, Deyverson and Roger Guedes.

*Mayke twisted his ankle on Sunday’s practice and will be under observation for the next couple of days; Jean, Fabiano and Tchê Tchê are options.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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